The Old Woodlands Town Centre
Border towns are intriguing estates. Unlike other estates designed to be self-sufficient, border towns have a close relationship with the town across border. The old Woodlands Town Centre for instance is a border town for people passing through to Malaysia or Singapore. Until 1998, the Causeway was the only bridge linking the two nations and Woodlands served as a passage for those commuting or travelling overland.
Trade in the old Woodlands Town Centre depends heavily on its border town function. General businesses include shops selling apparel and footwear, money changers offering the most competitive exchange rates, and 24-hour eating houses to fill hungry stomachs round the clock.
Passport controls were implemented at Woodlands in June 1967 shortly after Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. The old customs complex was completed in the early 1970s at the junction of Woodlands Road and Woodlands Centre Road. The old Woodlands Town Centre would transform to become a pit stop for the transit.
In 1980, the Woodlands Bus Interchange was established at Woodlands Centre Road to provide bus services for the estate and the northern corridor. It was also located strategically next to the old customs complex.
The resident population also increased with the completion of Blocks 1A to 6A at Woodlands Centre Road in 1980. The area became lively: a shopping arcade with the likes of Oriental Emporium, entertainment at the Shaw Brothers-owned Woodlands Cinema, and dining options at fast food places, the hawker centre and 24-hour eating houses.
A large mosque was built in 1980 to accommodate the large number of residents and visitors from Malaysia. Situated at the junction of Admiralty Road and Woodlands Centre, Masjid An-Nur can house up to 2,800 worshippers in one session.
Pace of life at the estate would come to a standstill by the 1990s. Woodlands Bus Interchange was closed and commuters were directed to the brand new Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange and Woodlands MRT Station that opened in 1996. The seven-storey Causeway Point, a mega shopping mall, opened three years later and soon offered better and newer amenities to visitors. The former bus interchange was eventually converted to a parking space for buses and coaches.
On 25 June 2012, the Housing and Development Board announced that Blocks 1A to 6A Woodlands Centre Road were earmarked for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). Residents from the 147 flats will relocate to the new replacement flats at Woodlands Drive 70 by 2016.
The site also comprises 186 shops, 6 offices, 5 eating houses and 78 hawker stalls. Eligible shop tenants will be given an ex-gratia payment of $60,000. The National Environment Agency would also build a replacement hawker centre at Woodlands Town. Current hawkers who wish to continue their trade will be allocated a new stall at the replacement hawker centre.
With residents and businesses moving out of the estate, the old Woodlands Town Centre’s days of glory will come to an end.